j o h n w a i t e i n t e r v i e w

A year on from my first Interview with John Waite and at a much more likable hour of the day - I caught up with the AOR legend via phone to his new Los Angeles home.
More informal this time around, I really enjoyed this interview and thought John's replies were relaxed and quite funny in places.
See what you think!

Hey John.
Andrew - how are you doing?

Very well thanks. Yourself?
Well I just knocked a big hole out of my guitar, trying to pick it up!
Pretty good though - the sun's shining out here and everything's hunky dory!

It's been a while since we had our last chat.
Yeah, was that the one where it was like 3a.m. and you were sitting in front of a wood heater or something?

That was me!
Hahaha. Are you in the same place?

Yeah, except this time it is a decent hour (midday) and it's summer, so I am not freezing my ass off!
Yeah, it's tomorrow there isn't it?

That's it! So you are in LA now - what inspired you to move out to LA?
Well I was on the second single from my last album When You Were Mine, that single was Imaginary Girl and my manager was out here and they kind of botched that last single - even with all thee radio stations playing it and no body did anything.
So I thought it was worth the trip out here to be with my manger when the second single came out, but the same thing happened again.
I couldn't believe it.
I changed management actually. And I am still here. It kinda grew on me a little.
It was kind of good to get out of the East coast scene for a while.
A lot of my friends are here and a lot of people who were huge Baby's fans in the music business are here also.
A lot of the Baby's success and the solo success like Missing You were in California.
So it's easy to get things done here.

I am a huge LA fan so I can see where you are coming from.
Have you ever been to New York?

No I haven't - next trip!
Just try and see it - just for the spectacle. It's really something.

Toronto is as close as I got!
That's a nice town.

OK - the last interview ended with Temple bar, so we should start we left off last time around.
You got a new deal for When You Were Mine?
Yeah, that was a long time coming. Two years after Temple Bar had had it's day and Imago had gone down.
And it took about two years to get singed to Mercury. It looked like it was going to be great, because my manager had a personal relationship with Danny Goldberg, who was the head of the company. And my ex-manager was head of the A&R department. I thought it was going to be a piece of cake to just whip out an album and get back on the road.
But we had a few problems with a few things and it just kinda got lost.

How in God's name did they fuck it up?
I just don't know. I just don't know. It was all over the radio. We closed out all the stations in the first 3 weeks and it was absolutely on it's way.
But they had priorities for a certain artist there and there was no chance for a video and no chance for a tour.

But it was such a commercial album.
Yeah, it was really made to do this singer/songwriter thing and take a different route. It was very commercialized and very accessible.
We were getting tremendous reviews and interest and all this air play, but you can't motivate a company if they are more concerned about getting other artists on the radio.

I just don't understand that at all.
Well I had seen it before, I saw it a Chrysalis at the end of the Baby's.
The person you need to get in your court is looking the other way. You can't do much about it. They have priorities - it's a business.

So where did that leave your head after that?
Well it did me in! Especially after moving out here. I really just expected people to do what they said they were going to do.
It was kind of crippling really.
But there are worse things in the world than losing a record. You know, there are terrible things going on all around the world. Northern Island is a tragic. Rwanda is a tragedy.
But losing a rock record - that's ridiculous.

That is a nice perspective to put it John, but it is still a shame.
Well it was realistic. Over the last 5 years, I have had some bad luck. I still got to make the thing and work with those musicians. It was just disappointing.
Things go in cycles and it will come back around.

When I talked to you, the tape was in the mail and I wasn't able to discuss the songs with you, so I have to ask you a few questions now if I can?

There was two halves to the album. A rock half and a more softer country feel to the second half.
Well after Temple Bar started to go down the toilet I couldn't stand to watch it, so I jumped in the jeep and drove right across America and headed down to New Orleans. On the way down I was continually writing songs in my head. And seeing that I was on the open road with a lot of Bob Dylan and Hank Williams - I started formulating an idea in my head about doing a record with a reference point of an acoustic guitar and almost being country.
And it started of with When You Were Mine, which is like an idea of looking back at being 17 and the characters in the songs Suicide Life and Bluebird Café are 17 also.
It was loosely based on flashbacks in people's lives with country and also an English roots feel, my story almost - musically.
I was trying to put it together with an acoustic guitar.

Suicide Life was an extraordinary track…
Well that guy, that the song was written about - when I first moved to LA, me and my girlfriend used to go up to the corner supermarket and this guy stood in the doorway.
Schizophrenic I think, but he had this big beard and was filthy - he looked a little like me!! I was better groomed of course, but he had my nose or something!
That always stuck with me. We always used to buy him the odd slice of pizza or something and have a talk to him. He never had much to say, but he wasn't a loony - he was just in a lot of trouble.
And any time I would come back to LA, I would always see him. In fact I saw him last week. I saw him yesterday even.
In all my time, since 1977, he has been living in West Hollywood walking around.
When the car pulled up to him, I almost leaned out and said "Do you know I have written this song about you" - but I don't know what he would do.
Very strange to see him still about.

The music to that track was pretty out there for a John Waite song!
Well I used to write..…well, yeah. The last couple of albums my songwriting has become more descriptive.
There's a song called Encircled off Rover's Return where I use symbolism rather than spelling things out.

The whole album really does tell a story.
Well yeah, I had two years to get all that stuff together, it was interesting.

Show Me How To Love Me was almost a classic Baby's song.
Yeah I wrote that with Jeff Golub. We were listening to Otis Reading, we were into 'I've Been Loving You Too Long' - just a fantastic song. We were trying to get back some of that feel.

So what happened with Mercury in the end then? Did you ditch them or did they let you go?
No, actually it was pretty funny. I rang up the A&R person on a cell phone driving down the 405. I though, this isn't happening.
So I asked if they would consider just letting me walk away as it hadn't happened and I got the call back in about 3 days saying it would be OK and consider myself free.
They were very decent about letting me out of it. It was a mutual thing where it just didn't work at all.

Well they should be decent - they screwed it up on you!!
Well I am trying to be big about this! Hahahaha.

It's not working - fuck 'em!! Hahaha!!

Yeah, don't worry about being big! Screw them!
Yeah, it was a shame to lose the album, but you can still find it in the stores.
It is a shame to lose that kind of a record, but what are you going to do?

At least the fans were able to get it. It never got released in Australia.

Yeah, but the mail order network is very good, fans know where to find it.
Too bad about the wider public not hearing it though.

Yeah I could have used a hit around that point.
It was overdue.

Yeah, they still play Missing You on the radio down here and I feel like ringing them up and saying will you get the fricking new record already!!!

They had a poll down here for the top 10 love songs of all time and Missing You was in the top 10.
Really? Yeah that was a good one. Write one of those and people know you for life.
At the time it came out I think it connected with so many people. It is almost like My Way or something.

Well, When I see You Smile was in the chart also, so you are not doing to badly!
Ok, yeah.

The Falling Backwards best of is a tidy compilation.
Yeah, there wasn't a Greatest Hits album out at that time and I wanted to salvage a few songs from Temple Bar, so it was a good thing.
I tried put a few odd things on there like Act Of Love, but mainly you have to stick with the hits.

I was glad Act Of Love as on there, it's one of my favourite tracks.
We play that live now. The place goes nuts when we do it. A lot of people seem to like that track.

I still love Downtown also. I talk to Glen Burtnik and am always mentioning that track. Any chance of you guys writing together again?
Yeah, we have another one called New York City Girl we wrote last year, It is really great and am hoping that that will be on the next album.
We don't write that much together, we play gigs and all that. And I spend quite a lot of time with him when I see him. But we have only written two really good ones together.

Well, if they are of the quality of Downtown, then that's OK.
Yeah, every three or four years, if they are going to come out like that, I will wait for them.
A very musical guy, is Glen.

I like his stuff a lot.
So mid to late last year, you did some gigs for the first time in a while.

Yeah, we went out and played a few gigs, it was kind of a new start as we changed agency's and we are playing a lot more.
We are going to slot in a lot more, the agency are a lot more interested in getting us gigs and there will be a lot more in the summer, some festivals.

It's great to see you getting out there.
Yeah, it should be a good summer. I am more concerned though in getting back in the studio.

OK sure, so what plans do you have there?
Well not much. I have like 30 songs written. We are talking to two major labels and there is the chance of there being a soundtrack in the very near future.
And we are trying to get that done and get in the studio and finalize one of these deals.
We really do need to get with someone that is going to push it through though.
These past two experiences, I would rather have day job than go through that again.
I am not kidding either!!
I would rather know where I stood you know.

So major US labels?
Oh yeah.

OK, so let's talk about the new tracks. Style wise, where is your head at?
We are trying not to be as country as the last record, that was a conceptual thing, but there is still a lot of acoustic guitar in it. And there is that sort of Americana flavor rather than blues country in it.
But the songs are very pop.
The last two albums were an amalgam of style. American and English views, but we are trying to clarify what we are writing.
I don't think there will be anything like Suicide Life in the new future.
It's very melodic and pretty modern sounding. There is more rhythmical things happening inside the tracks.

Maybe something like Let's get out of here?
No, I would consider that rock with a country edge.

So even more rock than that?
Well, there is a certain strand of Missing You when I do this stuff. Very spare and a similar rhythmic feel to it.
I am trying to write a big record, is what I am trying to do.
Not trying to complicate things, just concentrate on the melodies and the lyrics.
Write songs that are going to have an impact.

All I can say is Please - Guitars!!!
Yeah!! Well there are guitars all over this stuff. Shane is such a great player. We will never go back to the keyboard thing, that's not my style.
I think most of the success I have had come from the guitar.

Fantastic! So when might we see something? Late year?
We met with a major label mid week that want a soundtrack song for them. There is a lot going on I can't really tell you about, but if that goes through and they give us the thumbs up it will probably result in a record deal for the same label. It's a big label too.

And the soundtrack is?
Well, I am getting a couple of scripts sent over to me tomorrow and some video clips. But is a big label, so I hope it goes well.

I will get killed if I don't ask if you are ever going to get to Australia?
Well I say yes, but something always happens. The same goes for playing in Britain.
We are just concerned now about getting back in the charts in America and even Britain. But I tell you what - we are considering gigs in Europe right now, but I would love to do a festival in the UK.

Well it is alternative festivals only downunder.
That's a shame.
Most Australian bands like rock though.

Yeah, but he press love this imported rap and dance shit! Horrible!

I talked to Eddie Money once and he said it is hard for a white boy to make a living these days.
Well yeah, that is true of Eddie hahahaha.
He's rather special.

And I talked to Ricky Phillips, good to see you guys hanging out and talking again.
Yeah, I saw Ricky last night actually.
We always got on, me and Ricky. It was me and the keyboard player (Jon Cain) that didn't and that is putting it mildly!!
I saw him a few months ago and we had dinner.

I asked if you two would work together again?
Oh yeah, what did he say?

He said he would do it in a heartbeat!
Yeah there was some talk of getting the Baby's back together, but there is really no future in it.
I mean they have even deleted some of the early albums now in America. There would be no point to it.
But he would have been up for it.
We still owe Chrysalis something like half a million dollars!

Yeah, charged us for everything they possibly could, you know.

So what do you do with a debt like that?
You leave Chrysalis!!! Hahaha.
You change your name, get plastic surgery and more to South America. Haha.

So they don't send the boys in black suits around then?!
No! Haha. Well, no - John's out at the moment…….I think he's on an Australian tour or something…..haha. And he's not coming back!

They would never find you down here! Fantastic!
Anything I can add for you John?
Well you can give johnwaite.com a plug and there's a guy in Scotland with a quarterly newsletter….

Oh yeah, he wants to know when the Mercedes is arriving in kit form?
Hahaha. That's Kev, my old guitar player. He is a great guy.
He has this once a year John Waite trip, where they go and drink beer where I grew up and used to go to college.
It's wild! Grown men coming up from London to hang around Lancaster.
I turn them onto all the best pubs. Just a little bizarre though!

You can also buy T-Shirts on the website - we are making up a new one - Great Set Of Hits…..Think about it Andrew…

Hahaha. Sorry, I get it!!
So what are you going to play on these upcoming shows?
For the first time we are going to go out and play everything we released that we had a hit with.
For the first time in 16 years, we are going to do Isn't It Time.
We are going to play all the hits, but if someone wants to shout out something, we will play it because we know all the tunes.
We are trying to do a broad show to play everything people want to hear.

You know I haven't asked you about the live album coming out!
Yeah, we are in final negotiations with one guy in the band that hasn't given his OK for it. We are hoping to get that OK soon.

What does it comprise of?
Well, it is a live gig from 1982 that contains most of the musicians from the Ignition record - Donny Nosov and Frankie La Rocka and it is a really great show. The 1982 stuff comes from 2 great shows.
Then there is a quick snippet of the 1984 tour and band - Tears and Missing You.

13 tracks from 1982 and 2 from 1984 then?
Yeah, it is surprising how good the band is from 1982 actually.

Well I think that's it John.
God bless, thank you for calling and being interested, I am flattered.
Call me anytime you like.
Nice talking to you and stay in touch.

Thanks John. Will do for sure!!

c. 1999 melodicrock.com
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